Tag Archives: anime

Dragon Maid and the Dissociative Imagination

The Western anime fandom can be rather reductive in how they consider ‘otaku’. Whenever they’re a point of discussion, the ‘otaku’ is usually figured by the community as male, casually perverted and distinctly out-of-touch with the world around them. Most of all, they’re billed as a pretty elitist group. As accurate as this may be in some cases, it’s overall inconsiderate in the picture it paints, as much as anime frequently reinforces that image. This season has seen something fresh come to our screens and streams, however: Kobayashi san Chi no Maid Dragon has been a bizarre and sometimes overwhelmingly adorable indulgence in the kind of ideal isekai otaku disconnect themselves into living within.

‘Cute girls doing cute things’ shows are known for their presentation of virtual, idealistic, accessible and fundamentally comforting worlds. Yet, Dragon Maid presents deviations from even the norms of this ‘genre’, depicting a mature Japanese salarywomen alongside a cast of widely varying age. Between Kanna’s elementary school and Kobayashi’s workplace, the high school which moe centers its sense of nostalgic escapism upon is missing. Episode titles are undercut by their subtitles, and over-exposure in the explicitly signified ‘fanservice’ episode is shunned rather than lauded. On the surface, these aspects of Dragon Maid promote a closer look at what kind of ‘world’ the show is drawing upon and modelling for its viewers. It’s not keeping in step with the trend of otaku-centered stories (thank God, there’s no light-novel MC), and it looks at itself with a sideways glance too. A closer comparison of what Dragon Maid presents against a wider idea of how otaku view and consume their media should therefore be productive. Continue reading Dragon Maid and the Dissociative Imagination

Misunderstanding the Mukokuseki: Why Fanservice Is Not On the Fringe

“What is perhaps most striking about anime, compared to other imported media that have been modified for the American market, is the lack of compromise in making these narratives palatable.”

– Susan Pointon

“…what appears to be be the single most asked question about anime in America, “why is anime so full of sex and violence?” is an inquiry that, while betraying an ignorance of the complexity and variety of the art form, is still significant in that it reveals the bewilderment of Western audiences in confronting so-called adult themes within the animated medium.”

– Susan J Napier

I’m sure my country’s recent ban of various sex acts in pornography wasn’t on many people’s Christmas list. Not because of any particular fetishization of any of the practices listed; it’s alarming due to the sense of a growing trend journalistic fans of anime should be all to familiar with. The practically Victorian belief that our media must be purged of any images we (that is, the social elite that stand to represent and essentialize us) find morally unsavory, and the result being dominated by a limitation of the expressions of women in media, to serve as a condemnation of the ‘patriarchy’, the ‘male gaze’, and so on. Continue reading Misunderstanding the Mukokuseki: Why Fanservice Is Not On the Fringe

Quiet, Euphonium! I Want to Hear the Rest.

Hibike! Euphonium has nearly finished its second season. The storylines have been tight, weaving between the struggles of Kumiko’s senpai and chipping away the mask of Asuka, and Kumiko’s own reservations throughout it all. No-one can fault the talent that KyoAni have pulled together on this project. But even as all the details come together to make something magical, there’s something holding all of it back; a change from the show’s first run that undoes a lot of the synergy that initial arc established between musical performance, social dynamics and narrative style.

Continue reading Quiet, Euphonium! I Want to Hear the Rest.

Moe, Maturity and Reading Like a Man: Beneath the Surface of Shirobako

An anime about making anime and celebrating the industry wins multiple awards from the industry. Passing comments might be skeptical of how self-centered the anime business has become. But those who have watched Shirobako know well how deeply it deserves its accolades. It’s a coming-of-age story that abandons the typical high school setting, but retains the moe aesthetic for its femicentic main cast. Combining the realistic struggles of a workplace with the hyperreal glaze of cute girls and boundless enthusiasm, it’s got both reality and moe firmly in its heart, and comments often on how the two conflict and co-operate in various capacities.

The success of Shirobako has however attracted a lot of attention from critics seeking to downplay its value for women, affirm the lie of ‘anime is a boys club’ to fabricate outrage, and use the show as a platform for continuing the anti-moe sentiment permeating much of our Western community. Continue reading Moe, Maturity and Reading Like a Man: Beneath the Surface of Shirobako

Porter Robinson finds Shelter in A-1 Pictures

Shelter tells the story of Rin, a 17-year-old girl who lives her life inside of a futuristic simulation completely by herself in infinite, beautiful loneliness. Each day, Rin awakens in virtual reality and uses a tablet which controls the simulation to create a new, different, beautiful world for herself. Until one day, everything changes, and Rin comes to learn the true origins behind her life inside a simulation.

A-1 Pictures get a lot of flak from the more ‘critical’ side of the anime community. From angst at the popularity of SAO to Youtuber Digibro’s well-documented hatred of the studio’s work, there’s a lot to debate about their artistic vision and how much commercial tunnel-vision they often suffer from, especially in their light novel adaptations.

But after seeing their short film for Porter Robinson and Madeon’s song ‘Shelter’, I can no longer entertain the idea that they’re the ‘McDonald’s’ of anime. Shelter is short, but it’s no fast food meal. It’s a precious example of everything that can be done when anime deviates from its commercial angle Continue reading Porter Robinson finds Shelter in A-1 Pictures

Mahoutsukai no Yome’s Magical Realism

It can be hard, when telling a story about magic, to get the audience on the level of your imagination. As much as viewers may be willing to suspend disbelief, it takes far more work to get them enthralled in every moment of your world, and wanting to see more and more of it. But Mahoutsukai no Yome, ‘The Ancient Magus Bride’, a three-part OVA series set to air over the course of a year, has began its tale with a crash-course in how to effortlessly weave the mystical into the mundane.

Continue reading Mahoutsukai no Yome’s Magical Realism

What’s the Matter with Moe? An Inside Look

Previously, The Mary Sue argued that we should be critical of ‘objectification’ by ignoring contexts of characterization and treating anime girls as no more than objects in the first place. Now they want the community to be ‘critical about cuteness’, as they vaguely denounce the ‘adult male’ viewership of moe as misogynistic, and conclude that moe is ‘alienating’ for those who want to see ‘real women’ in anime, and not the lovable and hyperreal figures modern Japanese culture is full of.

Continue reading What’s the Matter with Moe? An Inside Look

UEM! is Now on Patreon!

When I started this blog, back in the summer of 2015, it was an offbeat idea I had to keep myself busy with something other than the revision I should have been doing. It was my first real venture into the many communities of anime lovers online. Over the year-and-bit that’s passed, I’ve made many friends, and annoyed a few more people than I should have with my endless rambling about why we need to question what makes anime, and all art, ‘good’. I’ve made so much progress as a blogger, and it’s all thanks to you guys.

Among the readers I’ve picked up, some fantastic conversations have been made. Some of the best have come from more recent articles, posts that are more than just elaborations of opinions. I’ve been tapping into wider reading and research, into theories about art and how we appreciate it, old and new, to fill this blog with new ideas which are challenging and developing my own.

I recently wrote a post defending my pursuit into seeing anime from an academic lens. Now I want to follow up on that post by cementing this blog’s vision – to bridge the gap between popular anime and puzzling academia. To spell out exciting theories in relation to anime we’re all familiar with. But to achieve this – to further the work of channels like Pause and Select and Philosophy Tube in making the academics make sense – I’m going to need some help.

Today I’m launching a Patreon.

Continue reading UEM! is Now on Patreon!

A Defense of Academia: Why Reading Matters

Over the past year I have, out of instinctive habit, established a status quo of researching any idea I have a concern about. Every great essayist, past and present, has taught me that your own ideas aren’t enough to persuade people towards your opinion. Processing the efforts of others, in agreement and disagreement and neutral puzzling-out, is what elevates a discussion from casual to critical. Criticism basks in the glow of research, and better critics are almost inevitably marked by how much more they have read, and how much better they approach their studies. It’s a profession like any other – the harder you work, the more credit you deserve.

Continue reading A Defense of Academia: Why Reading Matters

About those Impressions

If you’ve been following this blog, you’d have probably notice that I’m behind on weekly Impressions. Close to two weeks behind now.

While previous and similar lapses have been due to illness, the problem I’m facing this week, after promising to catch up in the most recent Impressions post, isn’t that I’m ill. It’s not that I lack the motivation to blog or watch anime either; in a couple of days I cranked out a 5000 word article on my issues with The Mary Sue’s approach to anime. That was last week, and it got me thinking: I want to do more of that.

And that got me thinking about how little value I feel is in these weekly Impressions posts.

Continue reading About those Impressions

Fanservice, Feminism and What’s Really Being Objectified

The Mary Sue has written on fanservice in anime for the second time. ‘In anime’ might be a stretch however. The blog isn’t inclined to treat any subject they comment on with any sensitivity to the work as a whole. They splice out bits that seem to prove their points and ignore anything that could define it differently. So I want to make a counter-claim. In their most recent article, celebrating ‘sexiness’ that isn’t objectification, I don’t believe the writer is aware of what objectification really is in feminist terminology. I don’t believe the writer represents the interests of feminists at all.

Continue reading Fanservice, Feminism and What’s Really Being Objectified

Impressions! Summer 2016, Week Four

Still a week and a bit behind. Still fighting off some illnesses. Not suffering as much as Subaru still is, though…

Orange

Seeing Kakeru be slowly drawn away from the group by Ueda was uncomfortable to watch. But Naho made herself worse off by only worrying about herself. The letter guiding her to fix her regrets may seem focused on her, but ultimately it has its attention on Kakeru, and caring for him. Naho assumes Kakeru’s actions coincide with his thoughts. But of course he still wants to talk to her. It’s just as hard for him as it is for her.

Ueda’s row with him in the corridor could be criticized as a heavy-handed way of confirming how bad a girlfriend she is, but te caricature of a personality she has contrasts so well against the subtle, flowing characters that make up the main cast. She feels like an outsider, not only because she’s from Tokyo. An outsider to the narrative itself. And now Naho has helped remove her from this story.

Our main couple become closer after having been pulled apart. The romance swells, and I’m only getting more enthralled in it. Great stuff.

Re:Zero

Subaru continues to only value himself, and pays the biggest price for it yet. Though Rem sacrifices herself so he can escape the White Whale, he only wants to go back for her, because he doesn’t believe in her strength. Only his own. But the driver is right: the greatest powers of Re:Zero’s world make everyone else look weak in some way.

As Subaru believes he can bargain with the force denying him honesty in some way, that force takes Emilia’s life instead of his own. He says he’s come to save her, but he remains to not care about her at all. Betelgeuse’s words really struck me as he saw her dead in his arms; rather than be the hero, it sounds like Subaru was brought into this world to serve the evil within it.

Subaru doesn’t want to die after he loses Rem, but he does once Emilia is slain. He remains pseudo-heroic: Emilia wouldn’t stand for the inequality in that attitude.

Mob Psycho 100

More wacko social commentary this week, and our first big development. Mob wants to be popular and belong at his school. Our dimpled cultist really wants the same. But Mob humbly lends his time to helps others get rid of the influence of spirits: this spirit forces its influence on others. And so Mob finds resolution in forcing his influence on him.

The idea of Mob burying his emotions clashes so well against the over-expressive fraudulence of his mentor and the over-expressive tenor of pretty much every other character around him. He has to disconnect from our world in order to fit into it; else he’d annihilate it. I love this constant conflict of Mob’s existence; it’s set a brilliant backdrop for every note of drama to follow.

Even though we have a percentage counter, there really is no telling how long it’ll be until the next ‘explosion’. Regardless, I can’t wait for it.

Amaama to Inazuma

These episodic cooking conflicts are great. This week: learning to like the things you hate. Vegetables. Ugh.

Every installment of this show gives us a new way to look at childhood through what’s now become the regular routine of communal cooking for our cast. It’s great to see Tsumugi’s dislike of vegetables immediately accepted as an obstacle to overcome; Amaama to Inazuma isn’t arguing against what’s been concluded as good parenting. It’s emphasizing our need, however, to be creative in our approach to those conclusions.

Tsumugi may have offloaded her green peppers onto her father, but it’s a far cry from crying at the taste of them. The little touch of defiance ironically brings her closer to her father, when her need to eat greens was beginning to draw her away from him. It plays out like Flying Witch did last season with the herbs Chinatsu at first couldn’t tolerate; though the examples of adults enjoying the natural things children are skeptical of, children can learn to love them too.

91 Days

An escape from the hubbub of the family feuds gives our two leads some time to understand each other. Their performance to the children carried a lot of meaning for me; while Nero has a go-getting spirit, Bruno succeeds before we realize he has, and uses Nero’s character to strengthen his own. He turns the tables of the act: I wonder if the wider plot will play out somewhat the same.

Overcoming the ‘Goliath’ was a great mini-thriller. Nero’s lack of Biblical knowledge, which he ties into not going to church, furthers the pseudo-religious slant of his actions. He has a devotional walk, but it’s not towards Christ. Though Bruno gets a further insight into how far his revenge will have to go, this episode also got me thinking about what exactly Bruno is living for, be it day to day, or fighting for his life. He may be an object of Bruno’s avenging, but he lives as a subject of his own motivations. Surely we’ll be seeing into him more and more as we move forward.

Short-Cuts:

  • Bananya. A filmsy friendship that’s torn down by crowdthink? This is getting all too real…

The Drop Zone

  • Kono Bijutsubu. Like New Game, while it’s a great CGDCT with some nuances, I’ve losing interest in blogging it. May still watch it irregularly anyway.

That’s all for this (belated) week. See you next time!

Why Genre Matters for ERASED: ‘Playing Detective’

If you’ve been following discussions over the quality of Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, or ‘ERASED’ for Western viewers, you’ll have surely come across the issue of whether or not it deserves the ‘mystery’ genre tag MAL and a number of other anime sites give it.

The camp that says it must be a mystery tends to just note that it has ‘a mystery’ and therefore must be of that genre – that genre being, more specifically, the ‘whodunnit’ genre where we expect to follow a detective as he slowly unravels a crime. The camp that disagrees tends to argue that the killer was supposed to be obvious, that Satoru ignores his expected role as a detective ad goes on a different path, and that’s what contributes to it being a drama-slash-thriller. But neither of these positions fully grasp what ERASED was setting out to do with its story. That being said, it didn’t do that particularly well either.

Continue reading Why Genre Matters for ERASED: ‘Playing Detective’

Anime Authorship: All for One, not One for All

There is too much iconography being spread around for a select few names in the anime industry. It’s like people can’t see these names without slinging a bag of worries on their back before they watch, to burden the writer’s every chance of developing their story and their own image; a statuesque meta-narrative of their past work and what they think of it, claiming everything falls in line with it only because they make it fall in line. Continue reading Anime Authorship: All for One, not One for All